DMO Best Practices – Innovative Uses of Social Media

Destination Marketing Organizations around the world have realised the added value of using social media channels to market their destinations and increase awareness. There are certain examples though of DMOs that seem to have “broken the code” coming up with innovative campaigns and other uses of social media channels. Let’s have a look at a selection of best practices of DMO social media use.

The Banff Squirrel & Twitter

The fun element of destinations is definitely what social media can bring out and it should not get lost along the way. A viral sensation since 2009, the cheeky squirrel in Alberta’s Banff National Park became famous after stealing the spotlight in a tourist’s photo.

It all begun when Melissa Brandts, who was visiting from Minnesota, set up her camera on a tripod to capture her and her husband, in front of picturesque Lake Minnewanka. The little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into the shot. The couple submitted the photo to a National Geographic contest and the magazine posted it to an online gallery on Aug. 7.

Within hours of the meme taking off, Banff Lake Louise Tourism produced “Banff Crasher Squirrel: The Movie” on YouTube and created the @Banff_Squirrel Twitter account which now has almost 7.000 followers. The squirrel has a continuously scrolling conversation with tourists via Twitter on the Real Banff page that many people find enjoyable to follow. As of April 2011, the Banff Squirrel is ranked # 4 among the 25 Most Influential Tourist Boards and DMOs Online published by

VisitPhilly, Twitter & 2-way engagement, is the official visitor website for Greater Philadelphia. Through @visitphilly, tweeter Caroline from leads lively conversations, publishes a Photo of the Day contributed by followers and encourages people to visit a branded page on Foursquare, the location-based social networking website and game. This sort of two way engagement has led the DMO to the 7th place of the 25 most influential DMOs online according to .

Many DMOs are using Facebook to promote their destination, however most are using their FB pages to promote events, throw contests and engage in short conversations. Few DMOs have used it in order to unite audience and stakeholders towards greater causes and strategic goals.

Anaheim/Orange County & Community engagement

Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau launched a Facebook sweepstakes program entitled “Share Our Sunshine” celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The basic idea behind the campaign was to involve the entire community.

Eighty of the hotel, restaurant and attraction partners of the Anaheim/Orange County bureau participated in the campaign thus extending the benefits to the entire tourism region. Another best-practice element was to target the prizes to various categories of winners: trips for men, trips for women, getaways for two and family excursions.

Visit Florida & Crisis Management

Visit Florida-the official tourism marketing corporation for the state of Florida – hosted the “Great VISIT FLORIDA Beach Walk”on November 2010 to clear up any doubts about the status of Florida’s beaches in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“One of the great elements of Florida Live was the activation of Floridians to tell the real story,” said Chris Thompson, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “We reached out to our ‘Share a Little Sunshine’ fans on Facebook and asked them to post date-stamped images of our beaches – and they proved to be great fans. Recent focus groups told us those real photos, taken by real people, were really powerful.” Studies that people who visited Florida Live were 31 percent more likely to visit Florida during and after the oil spill than those who had not been to the site.

Photos of Florida’s 825 miles of beaches appear in the “Florida Live” feature on so potential visitors can see the latest beach conditions for themselves. Florida Live was created in May 2010 to maintain consumer trust through the course of the crisis by providing real-time updates from destinations around the state, coupled with live webcams and consumer generated content. Recognized as a best practice for crisis management, Florida Live has proven to be an innovative use of technology and content to address the oil spill situation.

Toronto and integrated video technology

In Canada, the city of Toronto is using innovative video technology that taps into Facebook and other social networks via  informal “ambassadors.” Tourism Toronto in the summer of 2010 began setting up interactive video recording stations at a number of festivals and attractions and invited residents and visitors to record messages about why they love Toronto.

After each video is recorded, the technology compresses a copy and instantly attaches footage that adds music, imagery, Tourism Toronto branding and a call to action.If the consumer decides they want to share their video, the “brand wrapped” video clip is then uploaded to their Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter accounts or sent to them by email.

The program is unique from several standpoints – the instant branding video technology has never been used before and Toronto is the first DMO to use this new technology and this kind of approach to promoting a destination. “The combination of community-based engagement, video footage and social networks wins on a number of levels,” says Clifford Ward, chief creative officer for, creator of the technology.

#InCostaBrava blog trip

Costa Brava recently organized a bloggers trip to the destination under the tagline 16 Bloggers.  7 Days.  1 Amazing Destination

#InCostaBrava brought 16 bloggers to the region for a week to sample the best experiences of the region, pulling together businesses and resources from all levels to create a major online buzz.  The event culminated with a social media workshop where bloggers and tourism providers discussed tactics and strategies as well as a reflection on the week.

According to Andy Hays, one of the invited travel bloggers , the #InCostaBrava group trip proved to be a successful model of social media tourism outreach due to the following factors:

  • The organization trusted the bloggers not just as content providers, but as “digital ambassadors”
  • They found the right people for the trip with a good mix of styles and backgrounds
  • There was a high level of teamwork in the destination, where all stakeholders, from tourism board to hotels and museums opened their doors and were on board to provide their best service
  • #InCostaBrava drove traditional PR and outreach opportunities beyond Social Media
  • The ambassadors were given what they needed in order to complete their “mission” successfully. #InCostaBrava wanted people to tweet and share photos and on-the-go coverage.  So they provided Wifi throughout the entire trip

Do you have other best practice examples in mind? Share them with us at the comments below!

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